Sally Potter’s The Party is a razor-sharp satire on the Establishment, says MARIA DUARTE
The Party (15) Directed by Sally Potter 4/5
IT MAY only be 71 minutes long but this biting satire on Britain’s political and intellectual elite hits the mark with entertaining accuracy at every turn.
It begins as Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) opens the front door and aims a handgun straight at the camera, setting the tone for this comedy wrapped around a tragedy.
The film then flashes back to the beginning of an evening dinner party hosted by Janet to celebrate her promotion to shadow minister for health for the unnamed opposition party.
Her friends and guests all represent social and political stereotypes.
There’s her best friend and acid-tongued resident political cynic April (played brilliantly by Patricia Clarkson), her on-off partner and life coach Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), leading lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and the ruthless, drug-snorting banker Tom (Cillian Murphy).
As they arrive, Janet’s beleaguered husband Bill (Timothy Spall) — who’s put his academic career on hold for her political ambitions — is slumped in a chair staring into space.
As he starts delivering one bombshell after another, the rest of the ensemble go into frenzied meltdown.
The truth, rather than making them free, shows them up for the self-centred, hypocritical and morally corrupt people they are.
Writer-director Sally Potter wrote this in the run-up to the last general election to explore the state of the nation, party politics and how truth is distorted by spin. In the current political mess, with Brexit and a Tory Prime Minister hanging on by a thread, Potter’s comedy drama has never rung so true.
With incisive, razor-sharp dialogue and superlative performances from the outstanding cast — in particular Clarkson who has the funniest and most cutting put-downs in the whole film, one of the best being her description of Martha as “a first-class lesbian but a second rate thinker” — Potter delivers a painfully funny and hugely entertaining comedy drama.
Its setting and themes are at times reminiscent of Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and you can’t say better than that.
It is lean, mean and 71 minutes of sheer joy. And there’s a killer ending to boot.